Hand-dyeing Hobby Becomes Business Venture for Local Artist

by | Apr 2020

Hand-dyed yarn from Wool + Timber

Photos: Chris Emeott

Fiber artist pursues an unintended business venture.

When Nathalie Carrigan and her husband bought a house three years ago, it had a large open wall where Carrigan wanted to hang a piece of art. She studied studio art in college and thought maybe she could create something suitable for the space. She never dreamed she would create a business and even be spotlighted on an HGTV show.

When Carrigan’s grandparents downsized to a condo, her grandpa gifted her and her brother a collection of live edge boards along with any other tools they wanted from his workshop. “He taught me how to use most of the tools when I was young,” Carrigan says.

Nathalie Carrigan

She’d been admiring some dye dipped canvases and wondered how she could create something similar, incorporating the live edge boards. So she went about experimenting with hand dipping yarn to create a similar effect. “My first attempts were pretty rudimentary and kind of disappointing,” Carrigan says. But she kept trying and eventually ended up with a fiber art tapestry that looked great in her home.

When her sister-in-law saw it, she wanted one, too, and then so did friends and many others. Her husband suggested she consider selling them. Enter a high school friend who works in PR, and Carrigan’s business Wool + Timber was born.

Carrigan uses a blend of alpaca wool yarn because it dyes well and hangs straight. “It’s soft and people like to touch it,” Carrigan says. “I love that. It also adds texture and softness to a home which is what people love.”

It takes up to 800 strands of yarn for a large-sized tapestry. Carrigan cuts each piece and dip dyes them with an acid-based (basically vinegar) dye one color layer at a time. “Each step doesn’t take long, but the overall process does because you have to wait [for the dye to dry.]” The colored strands are attached to live edge boards Carrigan has cut, planed, sanded and stained. “The wood takes me longer than anything else which surprises people,” Carrigan says. Now that she’s used up her grandpa’s materials, she gets wood from a Minneapolis mill. “It all comes from trees that have fallen naturally,” Carrigan says. “Nothing is cut.”

Then Heather Fox of Edina posted a social media call for fiber art to display in an episode of her HGTV show Stay or Sell. A friend submitted photos of Carrigan’s work and she ended up having a tapestry staged in a home on the show and was also invited to create a tapestry for an episode.

Carrigan has now been commissioned to create a piece for a public space at the new Nolan Mains at 50th and France, and shoppers can find her work for sale at Brad and Heather Fox’s new Foxwell shop in Edina.

Carrigan says, “For me, fiber art is a new way to combine all of the things that I love into something that is not super common.” She says starting a business was a little overwhelming but she loves making her tapestries. And we love how beautiful and interesting they are.

Wool + Timber
Facebook: wool + timber
Instagram: @wooltimber


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